Pre-Teaching Nerves and other stuff

Trip Start Aug 13, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Hunan,
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tomorrow is the first day of school! I'm so nervous... My 20-minute thesis presentation last semester seems so long ago- and was the last time I did a large presentation. I was so nervous that time-- and tomorrow I have to basically do a 45 minute presentation! Yikes. No time to be shy now... I'm excited about it, thinking about the possibility of it going really well. And extremely nervous about it, thinking about the possibility of having unplanned 15 extra minutes at the end-- or rowdy kids-- or kids that just don't understand anything that I say-- or kids that are bored... I think good teachers really deserve more credit! I suppose "good teacher" is kind of a subjective thing though... I'll still give kudos to Steve Heiny, Dan Graves, and Jonathan Diskin!
    So I have a 2 classes that I am teaching tomorrow-- it will mostly be introductions and rules/expectations. I have it pretty well planned, I think, but I'm still so nervous!! I went to my classroom today and up front, the teacher has a raised floor to stand on-- and I stood there, trying to imagine the class full of 13-14 year-olds. School presentations seem like child's play compared to what I am about to attempt tomorrow.
    I actually ran into a student that I am going to have later this week. He was a 'junior two' -- sort of like 8th grade, i guess-- and I saw him in one of the classroom that I'd be teaching in (the students stay in their classrooms and the teachers move to each classroom-- each class has a number). So, I tried talking to him in English-- and he barely understood a word I said! This kind of concerned me. I really don't know how to prepare for the range of ability that I might have in the class. I know there are some kids that are really good and some that can barely understand a thing. The kid was really sweet but I just had to speak very clearly and very slowly with him. I don't want to bore the other kids though. How do teachers do this?
    I keep trying to put myself in the kids' shoes-- I've based a lot of my ideas on how I felt when I was a student in French, Spanish, and German. I think it's very helpful actually. I wish I knew more Chinese though. Speaking of, I've had some more Chinese conversations! The guy that asked for my phone number at the bar the other night called me a few days ago-- He spoke a mix of Chinese and bad English-- to which I responded in a mix of English and bad Chinese. In Chinese, I said "No, I don't want to go," and "I don't understand" and "I can't speak Chinese." I think he said it was his birthday or something. It was kind of funny and kind of pathetic. Talking in person is hard enough-- the phone is so difficult. Unfortunately, a lot of Chinese people keep calling my phone-- I just learned today how to say "sorry wrong number" in Chinese (my friend Betty told me). Before, I would answer and say stuff in Chinese like, "I am American, I don't understand, I don't speak Chinese," and then finally say "Sorry wrong number, bye."
    Other recent happenings? Not much. Lan's birthday was yesterday and we all went out to dinner to meet some of her World Teach friends. They were all nice and interesting to talk to. there were quite a few Chinese Americans actually, which I thought was kind of interesting-- and a Chinese-Australian. I met this guy who went to Pomona College and knew a few people from Earlham that I knew too! Small world, eh? Actually, apparently, Tai met a girl at Earlham who is from Changsha.
    So after dinner, we all walked to this convenience store to buy some beers and the light rain turned into this horrible downpour. We all stood in the store for about 30 minutes, just talking, until we decided to brave the rain and walk to a nearby bar. This bar was owned by an American (from Vermont) who has been in China for the past 6 years.
    Tomorrow, besides classes beginning, there is going to be this big opening ceremony where the foreign teachers all have to say a little something. I wrote out a little something and sent it to Rodger, who will be translating for us-- He just called and asked how to pronounce my last name, which I found quite funny because my last name is actually originally Chinese. It has been Vietnamesized and Americanized. No wonder I have identity issues, eh?
    So, one more piece of information-- Our water has been kind of spotty today-- sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Rodger told us that it would not work today but then it did work at some times. He said it might not work tomorrow. It seems like there's a lot of uncertainties in China. Rodger is always telling us stuff using ambiguous, uncertain language-- lots of 'maybes' and 'probablies.' Maybe that explains all of my uncertainties about life-- it's in my blood!
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Ian on

You'll do fine, gal!

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